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Restaurants say they need more aid as they face shortages, new variant

Workers prepare a meal at The Swinging Doors restaurant in Spokane.
Rebecca White
Workers prepare a meal at The Swinging Doors restaurant in Spokane.

Restaurants are urging Congress to approve more aide as the struggle with inflation, supply chain issues and evolving COVID-19 variants.

Lisa Emery manages her parent’s restaurant, The Swinging Doors, in Spokane. She says her family’s business accumulated debt when it closed its doors in 2020, and even more when it purchased safety and health equipment.

She says she had hoped 2022 would be a fresh start, but says the business has struggled under the stress of a new variant, shortage of basic supplies, and inflation.

“Maybe the general public doesn’t understand how much restaurants are suffering,” she said. “It looks like we’re back to normal, but we have not brought all of our tables and chairs back, we have a pod rented that we have half of our tables stored in. We do not have the staff to accommodate that 100% capacity, the volume we saw in a normal year is not back. We’re not able to maintain profitability if we don’t get help.”

Emery says she applied for the Restaurant Revitalization Fund when the application opened, but funds were quickly exhausted. Her business was one of about 4,000 in Washington that didn’t receive funds, according to the Washington State Hospitality Association.

In a roundtable with restaurants Tuesday, US Senator Maria Cantwell, says she hopes to have agreement on another round of aid in the next 60 days.

“The good news is there is a bipartisan effort by my colleagues Senator [Ben] Cardin, [Roger] Wicker and myself, and Susan Collins and many others who are working to try to get this legislation included in many of the must pass bill that we need to do in the next couple of months,” she said.

Cantwell says she’s hoping the next version will provide aid to all Washington restaurants who have accumulated pandemic-related debt.

Rebecca White is a 2018 graduate of Edward R Murrow College of Communication at Washington State University. She's been a reporter at Spokane Public Radio since February 2021. She got her start interning at her hometown paper The Dayton Chronicle and previously covered county government at The Spokesman-Review.